Do it for the Planet – A Guide to the Growing World of Low-Waste Sex

We all love to get it on – I know I sure do. But when I read about the state of our planet, from an estimated 10,000 species dying each year to melting ice in Mongolia damaging ancient artifacts, I start to get down about getting down. With all the plastic, chemicals, and generally trashy things going on behind closed doors, sometimes our sex lives can feel at odds with how much we love our planet. Wading through all that heavy packaging and harsh toxins, it’s hard to know where to even start when it comes to aligning getting frisky with saving the earth. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to our collective shift in mentality, the options for eco-friendly lovin’ are growing. This emerging culture of sustainable sex has those of us wrapped up in climate change turned on to all the spicy possibilities at hand for every budget and palate. 

And it starts with the basics.

Protection

The elephant in the room for many is one of the most fundamental parts of our contemporary bedroom fun. Protection and contraceptives are an essential part of any conversation about sex that isn’t solo, and it ought to be the number one priority for all parties. Unfortunately, this touchy topic is often brushed under the table, and until recently, we’ve mostly had to rely on chemicals and plastic packaging to provide it.

But things are changing – especially in the world of contraceptives. If you’re worried about getting pregnant, an IUD is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to show that concern the door. These devices last for at least five years, meaning one little piece of plastic will save you from encountering tons of waste from hormonal birth control’s nonrecyclable packaging. 

If you’re in a closed relationship (or relationships), then you don’t need to worry about further STD protection. But if you’re playing with multiple partners, then condoms are an absolute must. Currently, condoms are the only way to prevent the spread of STIs, and if you want to keep having lots of great sex with multiple partners, you need to play safe. In the past, that meant exposing your body to nasty chemicals, carcinogens, plastics, and gelatin that work together to topple your body’s pH, irritate your skin, and throw you out of balance – and that’s not even considering the way they that they linger in landfills, unable to decompose.

Thankfully, there are brands looking to change that. Sustain was one of the first, creating condoms using as few chemicals as possible while staying just as effective. The result? A condom that works without all the gross stuff. Since then, there have been condom companies popping up left and right that pride themselves in their eco-friendly ways. The condom company Lovability is taking it a step further with entirely recycled packaging in 2020.

Currently, there are no organic and natural vaginal condoms or dental dams, which is frustrating, but if we keep advocating for our needs in the bedroom, we’ll be met with eventual change.

Remember, it isn’t a crime to use things that need to be thrown away. We’re all doing the best we can in this climate crisis, and nobody is a saint. If you have the means to do it, however, go for the more expensive, environmentally friendlier options. You can also sign up for a TerraCycle program that lets you send off condom wrappers (among other personal wellness items) to be recycled properly. Some people even advocate for putting these more earth-friendly condoms into your personal backyard compost. Whatever works for your boundaries, you have tons of options for playing safe while harming the planet less.

Lube

The joy that makes the toys much sweeter. Lube is the best, and its use is on the rise. Don’t just take my word for it. According to marketing research group Mintel, almost half of millennials use lube on a regular basis. Maybe it’s because we just know that slippery + sex = more fun (always).

But with this generation’s sudden obsession with lube, we can’t just assume all the things we’re putting on our bods and toys make Mother Nature feel as good as we do. All too often, lubes are riddled with nasty chemicals you don’t want going inside you, let alone our water systems and landfills.  

As always, nature knows best. If you’re not using toys or condoms, plain old coconut oil is a miracle worker. Organic, unrefined, and all natural for your sweet body, it’s actually good for your skin (inside and out). Personally, it’s my go-to in the bedroom – and at around $6.00 for a jar of the organic stuff, it’s got a sweet price tag that’s hard to beat. Just don’t accidentally confuse it with the jar you use in the kitchen.

When we find ourselves in a situation that calls for toys or condoms, only water-based lubes will do. The ones you find at the store tend to be chock full of chemicals that again, provide a major disservice to your body and the planet. Thankfully, just like the condom industry, the lube industry is waking up to what our planet needs. Many super sexy water-based lubricants are on the market featuring ingredients like aloe vera. Petrochemicals out, plants in.

Unfortunately, these eco-conscious delights are all packaged in plastic – and most of them are in the kind of squeeze bottle that’s almost impossible to clean out (and therefore unrecyclable). Good Clean Love is one of those brands. They have wonderful ingredients and a great lube packaged in bioplastic from sugar cane, but you’re stuck sending their bottle to the landfill if you don't wash it out. YES is no different, either. Thankfully, there's a way. When your bottle is empty, cut the tip off the plastic tube so you can clean it by hand, then pop it in the recycling.
If that sounds like too much work for you, Sliquid and Aloe Cadabra are two companies that have heard your plea for convenience. Although they use plastic bottles, it’s the kind you can unscrew and clean out, making these two options slick, sexy, and recyclable.

If you’re still not sold on using any plastic packaging for your lube, unleash your inner DIY thot and buy some aloe vera. It turns out that the key ingredient in these natural lubes makes for a sticky and scintillating, condom-safe lube in a snap. Just make sure it’s pure aloe vera, and nothing else mixed in.

Make do with what you’ve got

In our consumer-driven culture, it seems almost scandalous to avoid making purchases, but a lot of sexy fantasies can unfold without spending a dime. Looking for some blindfold action? Cut a strip from a t-shirt you don’t use anymore. We all know about masturbating with electric toothbrushes. The back of a wooden hairbrush is a classic too. And just ask me about the two different cutting boards with handles I’ve broken in my sexcapades. The things we have lying around the house can unlock our imagination and serve as tools for a night we’ll never forget. Maybe you’ll get so frisky, you’ll never look at a cucumber in exactly the same way again.

It’s not only sustainable to avoid buying, it helps transform everyday objects into things that open up a world of pleasure you may have never known was possible. Dive into classic temperature play by running ice cubes along your partner’s body or getting your mouth nice and minty before giving oral. These ways to play don’t require any plastic or chemicals, but still deliver an extra zing in the sack.

A lot of times, people who are just getting started in the low waste movement think they have to go and throw out all their toys and baubles that aren’t Zero Waste Approved. But hold off. Let those toys live out their long and sexy lives. Keep using whatever you already own until it’s finally time to upgrade. And when it’s time to retire your toys, recycle them. Love Honey’s a company that cares about the planet and has a hot new program that will recycle your vibrators for you, so you can say out with the old and in (and out and in) with the new in a way that doesn’t compromise the earth’s needs. Ann Summers has a similar program, as well. For every vibrator you buy from them, they’ll properly recycle one of yours – just make sure you send it off nice and clean. 

If you gotta buy new…

Sex toys break, kinks evolve, and sometimes the old belt we use for tying some hands up doesn’t quite meet our new sexual needs. If you’re begging to buy new, there are some great options out there to enjoy – don’t limit yourself. At its best, sex is an eternal exploration of desire, and we all deserve new toys and tools to learn about our sexuality. It’s human nature; the dildo has been around for millennia, and our obsession with creative ways to get frisky won’t stop anytime soon.

These days, you aren’t limited to just a polished marble dildo of yore – but that doesn’t mean you have to go synthetic, either. Instead of opting for plastics that have no place in such sensitive areas, you can play all night without worrying about where your toys are coming from, what they’re leaching into your body, and where they’ll go when you’re done.

Plugs and dildos

Mainstream sex shops conjure up a very specific image: neon plastic toys, synthetic tails on plugs, chemical-heavy items all veiny and ribbed, running the gamut of colors and textures, and all not built to last. But natural materials are making a comeback, bringing us closer to our ancestors thousands of years ago who loved their stone toys. Sites like Crystal Delights specialize exclusively in glass plugs and dildos. This isn’t the kind of glass you need to be ginger with; these toys are nearly indestructible, nonporous, and temperature sensitive. Try cooling them with ice water or heating them up with hot water for some temperature play that will always stay fresh. 

If you’re eager for an even more organic aesthetic and feel, try a wooden toy. Don’t worry about splinters – these bad boys have been polished and sealed to perfection and made to be entirely safe for long-term play. Etsy has a unique selection of wooden dildos and plugs for use solo, with a partner, or in groups.

Of course, silicone is and remains a viable and popular alternative in the sex toy industry, and is an essential component of high quality FTM packers (like those at the very aptly named store FTM Packers, which are great for daily use and for play). However, silicone is difficult to dispose of unless you ship it off and recycle it, and although it’s touted as “eco-friendly,” it’s still made using petrochemicals, so make sure the silicone item you buy is quality, and one you know you’ll want for a long, long time.

Vibrators

Dildos and plugs are pretty simple, right? It’s just one material, with no bells or whistles. What happens when we throw a motor in the mix? Does this love of going natural mean we need to say goodbye to one of the best modern sex inventons of our time?

Not by a long shot. Toys that buzz and hum are an up-and-coming scene for the zero waste community. Just ask Laura Singer of Trash is for Tossers, one of the foremost zero waste names in the industry. In her online store, Package Free Shop, she sold a Gaia biodegradable vibrator and was shocked when they sold out in a snap. According to her, it’s because “environmentalists are horny right now.” You and me both, girl. 

At first, I just knew the vibrator would be way out of my price range. In fact, I figured it would be something I could only afford after dipping into my savings. Boy, was I wrong. These sweet babies come in at only $15.00  – and their bullet is even cheaper. It’s built to last, but when it dies the pieces all come apart. The outer shell can be sent off to an industrial compost, the inner plastic can be recycled in single stream recycling, the silicone ring can be recycled or burnt, and the electronic components can be “removed and sent to electronic recycling.” Amazingly, once this gem stops working, you can rest easy and know your pleasure didn’t cost the landfill any precious real estate.

If you’re still jaded by the ways that even the most environmentally-conscious toys need to be charge (generally grid tied to fossil fuel and grid-tied) fear no more. The most recent novelty in sex toys is a solar-powered bullet vibrator. You can charge your toy for an hour of play using only the warmth of the sun to get you going. Does it get much more natural than that? Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows: this bullet has a lot of plastic pieces that aren’t anywhere near as friendly as the biodegradable vibrator, and you’ll still have to dispose of it when it dies. Still, with both biodegradable and solar-charged technologies in the vibrator world, it’s not long until companies come together to create something that’s only got the planet in mind.

If you’re not looking for a bullet, but something a little more interactive or diverse, Leaf Vibes was named the best eco-friendly sex toy at the 2015 Los Angeles Sexpo. They have several different models for a wide variety of experiences, use quality silicone, and pride themselves on creating pieces that were built to last – their rave reviews make it easy to see why they’re such a favorite.

Ropes and paddles and rods, oh my!

We’re not here for just dildos and vibrators, are we? If you found your way to this article, you’re probably into the dirty stuff yourself, more than just a roll in the hay with a vibrator and misguided daydreams out of Fifty Shades of Gray. You’re here for the real deal. But if you’re like me, then you know that leather and a love for the planet don’t exactly mix – and neither do plastic toys or pleather options, for that matter. Thankfully, when it comes to things that thwack, bamboo is your friend, coming in the form of canes and big old paddles

If you’re a rope aficionado, you’re in even more luck. Rope is often made from sustainable materials like hemp or flax to begin with, and opting for organic is as easy as a simple google search.

Leather and doms

Vegan leather is all the rage right now, with alternatives made of mushrooms, pineapple leaves, and other innovative materials every day, and this fabric is making its way into high end products. While none of them are currently being used for sex toys (in fact, most are for high-priced jackets, purses, and shoes), the existence of biodegradable vegan leather is a revolutionary start. if we use our voices to bring sustainability into the sexy spotlight, we can get our favorite toys and gear made of this kind of leather rather than the less-than-friendly synthetic alternatives that are just as toxic to the planet. 

For now, you can stick to doing what you can by hiring a vegan dominatrix to meet your needs, buying your leather secondhand for that play party, and opting for wooden, bamboo, or hemp-based toys wherever possible.

Dress the part

Being environmentally kind doesn’t mean you need to wear boring cotton or hemp clothes to your latest sexy assignation. The thrift world is alive and kicking for lingerie – in fact, my personal collection of some over-the-top nighties is exclusively gathered from vintage and thrift stores.Depop has some great, rotating selections that have me drooling already, wondering which new (used) corset I really need for the bedroom. If you’re looking for something brand spankin’ (pun intended) new, sites like Les Lunes or Anekdot, a company who uses leftover lace and fabrics that would be thrown away by other companies, are great options for firsthand, high quality pieces..

If latex is your thing, you don’t have to worry about what to wear, either. Many latex clothing companies opt for natural latex, meaning it comes right from the tree. Latex is tapped, like maple syrup, leaving the trees intact – and some produce for decades. Sites like Libidex offer only the highest quality natural latex for all your fantasies, so you can enjoy your look and feel without worrying about the planet.

To fund all of these sexy new looks, you can take your planetary dedication to the next level by selling your old panties to keep them out of the landfill and in someone’s safe keeping. When the average American trashes 65 pounds of textiles like clothes (and yes, your undies), each year, we have a serious problem on our hands. Why not give your skivvies a new life, make someone’s day, and earn a few dollars on the side? After all, one person’s trash is another’s (arousing) treasure. 

Local is best

Whatever your kinks are, remember that going local is one of the best ways to love your planet. You’ll be doing a major service to your mother by forgoing that Amazon shipping, and you’ll be able to meet your local sexy community in the process. Feel free to pop into a store and ask them to carry more sustainable options – your voice makes a difference, and they may just listen to your customer request. If you don’t live in an area that has a sex shop, you can still do your part by opting for the slower shipping option. You’ll save money and significantly cut your footprint in the process.

You do you

There isn’t any one way to blend your sexuality with your love for the planet. In this point in time, nothing is truly perfect. All we can do as a collective is our very best, and nothing less, while finding joy within our flawed systems. In this day and age of environmental uncertainty, a little boinking goes a long way in soothing your rattled mind. If you’re not having fun while the world goes up in flames, you may just be doing this whole thing wrong. Going organic in the bedroom may not awaken your internalized ecosexuality, but you’ll at least learn how to make the planet a brighter place, one orgasm at a time.